Technological innovation is reshaping the infrastructure landscape. This intersection of infrastructure and technology, known as InfraTech, has accelerated the growth and viability of renewable energy, more widespread adoption of autonomous, machine learning drones and a viable solution for accessing pure drinking water in remote areas across the globe.
To support energy and infrastructure providers in navigating and finding opportunities amid this shift, Macquarie Capital has launched the Macquarie Capital Venture Studio with R/GA in January, a year-long platform promoting InfraTech innovation and fostering dialogue to support emerging companies in this sector to realize opportunities.
"InfraTech presents a significant opportunity to solve problems and dramatically accelerate advancements in the infrastructure sector, and the effects will be far reaching," said Rob Kupchak, Head of Infrastructure and Energy, Macquarie Capital Americas. "Those companies that are able to get ahead of the curve will be able to realize rapid, interconnected and continuous improvement in efficiency, efficacy and safety."
InfraTech in action
A recent Macquarie Capital Venture Studio panel discussion highlighted the extent to which established infrastructure companies have begun to embrace InfraTech with real-life examples.
Green Mountain Power, which supplies three-quarters of Vermont’s power needs, has reshaped its business around a customer-centric energy sharing model powered by technology.
Using the newest renewable energy technologies, Green Mountain Power partners with utilities wanting to offer renewable energy products to their customers.
CEO Mary Powell said new approaches to generation and distribution would be driven as much by data as the availability of energy sources.
"In the utility industry, a lot of what we’re doing is establishing energy sharing communities," she said. "We’re giving customers the power to personalize their energy usage, which is all data enabled."
Powell outlined the need to update Vermont’s ageing grid safely while meeting consumer demands for more socioeconomically and environmentally sound energy options. Green Mountain Power is embracing innovative technology to provide solar energy amid these changing demands for a state that produces less than 35 per cent of the electricity it consumes.
InfraTech presents a significant opportunity to solve problems and dramatically accelerate advancements in the infrastructure sector, and the effects will be far reaching"
Rob Kupchak, Head of Infrastructure and Energy Americas,
She said competitive pressures would prompt traditional utilities to embrace an energy sharing approach.
The panel discussion also looked at how drones are being deployed in industries including energy, transportation and construction, conducting detailed, high-resolution inspections of assets including smokestacks, power lines, train tracks and pipelines.
This application minimizes risk and increases efficiency of work that has traditionally been difficult, time consuming and dangerous, said Michael Huerta, Senior Advisor at Macquarie Capital and former FAA Administrator. According to the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration statistics for the 2016 calendar year, 384 out of 991 total deaths in construction were fall-related, the leading cause of death in the construction industry. Using autonomous, data-enabled drones to get to hard to reach spots could help reduce this number.
Huerta said another encouraging development was the more collaborative approach being applied to drone regulation, which is promising given regulation has typically moved at a more cautious pace.
"One of the most exciting things we’re seeing is that regulators are working with industry leaders and start-ups to encourage experimentation and build consensus," he said. "Eventually, we hope a new - more flexible - regulatory framework will emerge from this collaboration."
Macquarie Capital Venture Studio: a platform for the InfraTech revolution
The Macquarie Capital Venture Studio will provide nine technology companies selected access to Macquarie Capital’s global financial network and industry knowledge, along with support from R/GA’s creative capabilities. To date, more than 600 emerging technology companies have been considered for inclusion in the program.
The platform seeks to identify and support emerging technologies in three key areas:
- inspect, detect and protect, encompassing drones, sensors, the Internet of Things, preventive maintenance and computer vision;
- distributed energy resources, from electric vehicles to Distributed Energy Resource Management Systems, energy storage, thermal batteries, and solar and wind technologies; and
- productivity and automation, including augmented and virtual reality, logistics platforms, artificial intelligence and machine learning, autonomous vehicles and robotics.
The Macquarie Capital Venture Studio is a platform designed to promote innovation in InfraTech. The Studio collaborates with companies that have the potential to accelerate industries including utilities, transportation and environmental services. For more information or to apply, visit www.macquarie.com/mcvs.